44th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regions and Fiscal Federalism", 25th - 29th August 2004, Porto, Portugal
The "New Economy" is a concept that is associated with the growth of the US economy in the second half of the nineties, which were characterised by high growth in GDP. In attempt to find an explanation for these events, research to date cites the main determinant to be the marked rise in labour productivity that came about as a result of the impact of Information and Communication Technologies, particularly the Internet. The purpose of the present study is to examine the phenomenon that has arisen around this "new or digital economy" and the development of the Internet from the macro and microeconomic viewpoint and then show how the Spanish regions lag behind the rest of Europe in this respect. Firstly, we present international evidences of the positive impact of ICT in terms of labour and multifactorial productivity in national economies, industrial sectors and firms. These evidences are contrasted with some spanish studies. Secondly, we measure the importance of ICT in Europe. We base our method on a set of indicators, classified into three areas: infrastructure and size of sector, use of Internet and electronic commerce, and social and economic effects. We then examine the Spanish situation electronic commerce, and social and economic effects. We then examine the Spanish situation within the context of the rest of Europe, and discover a major north-south digital divide affecting certain areas, along with major interregional disparities. As far as Internet development is concerned, there are major regional differences. The paper points out the fact that Spain registers the highest standard deviation, in other words, the greatest regional differences, which, reflected in terms of different synthetic/composite indicators. This lag in progress contrasts with Spain's public policies aimed at promoting the Internet. Nevertheless, Internet development can provide the opportunity to close this gap within the EU. It may, however, increase discrepancies between the regions, by giving regions with higher per capita income an advantage in terms of productivity and competitiveness, unless a determined effort is made to implement actions aimed at developing the information society.